Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Frankenstein Genealogy

Yesterday I pointed out that as our research extends further into the past, we must rely on multiple records to create a “complete picture” of an ancestor. By complete picture, I mean we must gather together enough information about an ancestor to reach correct conclusions about the ancestor’s identity and family relationships.

A principal skill required of all genealogists is the ability to examine two records and determine if there is enough evidence to conclude that both are the subject of the same person. Just as putting together two overlapping photographs requires sufficient overlap between the two, likewise two records must have sufficient overlap in names, dates, places, and relationships.

Careless combinations lead to Frankenstein monsters built partly from the identity of one person and partly from the identity of another.

I illustrated such a ’stein yesterday by combining three celebrity photographs (left), into one (right).

From Angelina Jolie I took eyes and lips
Charleton Heston provided forehead, bangs, mail, scarf, cheek and beard
Tom Cruise gave sunglasses, nose, chin, jacket, and rooster tails
Frankenstein genealogy results from incorrectly combining records

How did you do? Were you able to guess any of the celebrities?

Now comes a much harder question. Think in terms of coming across such a ’stein in my online genealogy. It has Charleton Heston’s father, Angelina Jolie’s mother, and Tom Cruise’s child.

  • Who of the three is the real one, the one I was aiming for, the one that was corrupted by the other two? (Or is it none of the three?)

Give yourself one point for each of the three celebrities you identified correctly.

Give yourself a zillion points for answering the last question correctly.

1 comment:

  1. :)

    No points for me.

    Using sort of a "four corners" theory, I probably can't make essential identification from two documents.

    That's not to say I haven't.

    I'm a "body of evidence" fan who likes research at the family group level where you likely to have more evidence (all forms).


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